The Fool on the Hill
|"The Fool on the Hill"|
The 1996 U.S. jukebox single release of the song, as the B-side to "Magical Mystery Tour"
|Song by the Beatles|
|from the album Magical Mystery Tour|
27 November 1967 (US LP) |
8 December 1967 (UK EP)
19 November 1976 (UK LP)
|Recorded||25–27 September, and 20 October 1967|
|Label||Parlophone, Capitol, EMI|
"The Fool on the Hill" is a song by the Beatles. It was written and sung by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney) and recorded in 1967. It was included on the Magical Mystery Tour EP and album, and presented in the Magical Mystery Tour film, with a promotional sequence filmed near Nice, in France from 30–31 October 1967. The song achieved perhaps its most widespread popular audience as a top ten hit single by Sérgio Mendes & Brasil '66 in 1968.
The song's lyrics describe the titular "fool", a solitary figure who is not understood by others, but is actually wise. McCartney said the song relates to someone like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi:
'Fool on the Hill' was mine and I think I was writing about someone like Maharishi. His detractors called him a fool. Because of his giggle he wasn't taken too seriously ... I was sitting at the piano at my father's house in Liverpool hitting a D 6th chord, and I made up 'Fool on the Hill.'
Alistair Taylor, in the book Yesterday, reports a mysterious incident involving a man who inexplicably appeared near him and McCartney during a walk on Primrose Hill and then disappeared again, soon after McCartney and Taylor had conversed about the existence of God; this allegedly prompted the writing of the song.
McCartney played the song for John Lennon during a writing session for "With a Little Help from My Friends", and Lennon told him to write it down. McCartney did not; he was sure he would not forget it. In his 1980 interview with Playboy magazine, Lennon said, "Now that's Paul. Another good lyric. Shows he's capable of writing complete songs."
The song involves alternations of D major and D minor in a similar manner to Cole Porter's alternations of C minor and C major in "Night and Day". Thus the D major tonality that begins with an Em7 chord on "Nobody wants to know him" moves through a ii7–V7–I6–vi7–ii7–V7 progression until the shift to the Dm tone and key on "but the fool". Other highlights are the inspired use in the Dm section of a minor sixth (B♭) melody note on the word "sun" (with a Dm♯5 chord) and a major ninth (E melody note) on the word "world" (with a Dm chord).
McCartney recorded a solo demo version of the song on 6 September 1967. This version was later released on the Anthology 2 compilation. Recording began in earnest on 25 September, with significant overdubs by the Beatles on 26 September. Mark Lewisohn said that the 26 September version was "almost a re-make". A take from 25 September – noticeably slower, somewhat heavier and with slightly different vocals – is also included on Anthology 2. After another session on 27 September where McCartney added another vocal, the song sat for a month before flutes were added on 20 October.
- Paul McCartney – vocals, piano, acoustic guitar, recorder, bass, penny whistle
- John Lennon – harmonica, Jew's harp
- George Harrison – acoustic guitar, harmonica
- Ringo Starr – drums, maracas, zill
- Ray Thomas – harmonica
- Mike Pinder – harmonica
- Christopher Taylor – flute
- Richard Taylor – flute
- Jack Ellory – flute
Richie Unterberger of AllMusic said that "The Fool on the Hill" was the best of the new songs on Magical Mystery Tour aside from "I Am the Walrus". Tim Riley, a music critic who has contributed to NPR, was not impressed, and unfavourably compared the subject of this song to fools in Shakespeare. Riley wrote, "Possibilities in this song outweigh its substance—it's the most unworthy Beatles standard since 'Michelle.'" In 2012, the song was ranked the 420th best classic rock song of all time by New York's Q104.3.. Robert Christgau, of Esquire Magazine in May 1968, wrote it "shows signs of becoming a favorite of the Simon & Garfunkel crowd and the transcendental meditators, who deserve it. A callow rendering of the outcast-visionary theme, it may be the worst song the Beatles have ever recorded."
The Beatles were no longer performing regular concerts when they released "The Fool on the Hill" on record. McCartney performed it live with Wings on their 1979 tour of the UK. He also included it on his 1989–1990 world tour. The performances on this tour incorporated sound bites from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech. A live version from this tour is found on the album Tripping the Live Fantastic. The song surfaced again for McCartney's 2001–2002 tours, and another live version appeared on the Back in the US album.
Sérgio Mendes & Brasil '66 version
|"The Fool on the Hill"|
|Single by Sérgio Mendes & Brasil '66|
|from the album Fool on the Hill|
Sérgio Mendes & Brasil '66 recorded "Fool on the Hill", using their approach of marrying a simple bossa nova rhythm with a string accompaniment. The lead vocal was by Lani Hall. Released as a single, it was a big hit, reaching No. 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also spent six weeks at No. 1 on the easy listening chart. It was included on Mendes' album Fool on the Hill.
|1968||Eddie Fisher||(single)||Charted on the Record World magazine Non-Rock survey, the first version of the song to make the US singles charts and the last US chart single by Fisher|
|1968||Bobbie Gentry||Local Gentry|
|1968||Corry Brokken||Das war ein harter Tag: Beatles-Lieder auf deutsch||In German: "Der Mann, den ich will". Recorded in 1968, but not released until 1995, on a German compilation album Das war ein harter Tag: Beatles-Lieder auf deutsch. It uses an arrangement similar to Sergio Mendes' version.|
|1969||Four Tops||The Four Tops Now!|
|1969||Dorothy Ashby||Dorothy's Harp|
|1969||Petula Clark||Just Pet|
|1969||Roslyn Kind||Give Me You|
|1969||Stone the Crows||Stone the Crows|
|1969||Vera Lynn||B-side of single Goodnight||Also on double album The Singles Collection (2007)|
|1970||Shirley Bassey||(single)||No. 48 on the UK Singles Chart;|
b/w "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life"
|1971||Ron Goodwin||Ron Goodwin in Concert||Orchestral version. Goodwin's orchestration gives the opening penny whistle solo to the violas of the orchestra.|
|1971||The Chopsticks||All of a Sudden|
|1976||Helen Reddy||All This and World War II|
|1977||Björk Guðmundsdóttir||Björk||Sung in Icelandic.|
|1981||Sarah Vaughan||Songs of the Beatles|
|1981||John Paul Young||The Singer|
|1982||John Williams||The Portrait of John Williams||Classical guitar version|
|1984||Sky||Fool on The Hill||Also on 2015 reissue edition of Cadmium.|
|2007||Beatallica||Masterful Mystery Tour||Merged with Metallica's "Fuel" to create "Fuel on the Hill"|
|2007||Aretha Franklin||Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul||Recorded in 1969 during the sessions for This Girl's in Love with You.|
|2009||Mark Mallman||Minnesota Beatle Project, Vol. 1|
|2014||Eurythmics||The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles||This performance was the first and only reunion of Eurythmics founding members Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart after the duo's disbanding in 2005.|
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